How Bad Is A Poor Night’s Sleep?

17 Aug

Our basic premise is that your body is amazing.  You get a do over. It doesn’t take that long, and it isn’t that hard if you know what to do.  In these notes, we give you a short course in what to do so it becomes easy for you, and for you to teach others. We want you to know how much control you have over both the quality and length of your life.

This Month’s YOUR Do-Over Tips Relate To Getting A Good Night Sleep… 

Q) Many days I don’t sleep well—I wake up feeling like I had a poor or even bad night of tossing and turning without much sleep.  How bad is that?

A) A recent study found that not getting good, restful sleep can lead to a greater risk for heart attack and stroke. The 14-year study followed 657 Russian men aged 25 to 64 with no history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes. The men who slept badly — that is, they rated their sleep as  “poor” or “very bad” — had more than twice the risk of experiencing a heart attack and 2.5 to 4 times the risk of stroke during the course of the study when compared with those who rated their sleep as “good.”

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute recommends adults get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night, noting that heart and blood vessel repair occurs during sleep and ongoing sleep deficiency has been linked to not only heart disease and stroke but also diabetes, kidney disease, and obesity. So, you are right about needing to get “good” sleep to be healthy.  Even more interesting is what happens when you deprive yourself of sleep.

Fifty years ago, 17-year-old Randy Gardner and two pals camped out in his bedroom to see what would happen if Gardner broke the world record for sleep deprivation. The teenager stayed awake for 264.4 hours (that record stands today), experiencing moodiness, hallucinations, incoherent thinking, and slurred speech.

Not only can poor sleep over a long period of time increase your risk for heart attack and stroke, as observed in the study above, but poor sleep has also been associated with relationship problems, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, addiction to drugs and alcohol, and obesity.

Turn Over…

If you don’t feel your sleep is “good”, “very good,” or “excellent”, or if you don’t usually get 6½-8 hours of sleep a night, try to find the cause. Insomnia can be triggered by environmental problems (TV and digital devices in the bedroom, noise, non-red light (your brain center for sleep doesn’t see red wavelengths, so red light should be all you have in your bed-and bath-rooms after sleep time), a lousy mattress, emotional distress (anxiety or depression), or medical conditions (chronic pain—yes a chiropractor is often best and least expensive option here, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea).

If you still have trouble sleeping, try an online program (such as Cleveland Clinic Go! To Sleep) or these drug-free ways to sleep better:

Exercise daily. Walking 10,000 steps a day dispels stress and cues your body to rest.

Soak in an Epsom salts bath and eat a banana before bed. The combo of magnesium and potassium relaxes muscles and hot water helps dispel stress hormones.

Drink chamomile tea. But skip late-night alcohol. It can spike blood sugar and interfere with sleep cycles.

Still no success? Talk to your doc for a referral to a sleep specialist. Thanks for reading. And feel free to send questions—to youdocs@gmail.com, and some of them we may know enough to answer (we’ll try to get answers for you if we do not know).

-Young Dr. Mike Roizen

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